Thirteen years ago today, we got Jay Z's best album. Don't @ me on Twitter to tell me about how you feel that Reasonable Doubt is his best or to say that Kingdom Come is an underrated classic. You're entitled to your opinions. I celebrate that because you've got your's and I've got mine. That's what makes America really great. But, my opinion is this: The Black Album was Jay Z's best album.
From Just Blaze's spacey, Dilla-esque "Interlude" intro through Jay's heartfelt goodbye in "My 1st Song," I've never been able to skip a song on this project. The songs are a perfect summation to the Golden Era of Jay Z albums, but don't just feel like a Greatest Hits of Hov collection, either. You got to see Jay paint a vivid picture of his growth from being out in Marcy and dealing with a broken home and literally ask us something. After all the craziness he's given us, all the drama, the mafioso bars that tied into real life, the hits...what more could he really say? Truthfully? Nothing. The album is the perfect swan song to Young.
And, within this swan song, we're given some of Jay's most cohesive songs. Now, on Reasonable Doubt, he sounded "hungrier" and there are some tracks off of, say, Vol. 3 that were more lyrically-inclined than the old-school banger "99 Problems." I'll give you that. But, this album was about cohesiveness, about summing up all the parts that made up Jay and giving us the best elements of each of those parts.
I feel the album is summed up the best through songs such as the aforementioned "What More Can I Say" and a polar opposite of a track, "Lucifer." We get hustler Jay still reminding us that, if he relapses, someone's gonna start clapping. Plus, no one could rhyme over this era of Kanye beats like Jay to me. But, on "Say," we hear that, while that side of Jay is still around, he's moved on to bigger and better things. That's what makes this album special: while Jay came back, he'd moved on from being just a rapper or even a superstar. The elements that led up to, and were encompassed in, this album made Jay Z a brand.
That's why I've been so hard on songs from his post-Black Album work. He literally left us with a perfect finale, a perfect statement of "I'm above just bars." There is not a song on this album you can skip like many other projects. There's not a song on here that doesn't feel like it belongs. But, he came back because he gets the itch and we got uneven projects because of it more often than not. He didn't have to come back after The Black Album.
Anyway, before I go too off the rails, the album is classic. It's, for me, Jay's best project because it's cohesive to the point of perfection. Additionally, Jay was in rare form here. Porsha of Team DAR summed it up perfectly in her DefineARevolution.com review of the project when she said "there was so much more of himself put into this one." It's really an album that's for Jay that takes us along through its perfected ride.